April 29, 1946: The Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal convenes.
Officially called the International Military Tribunal for the Far East (IMTFE), the Tokyo Trials took place nearly eight months after the signing of the Japanese Instrument of Surrender, which marked the unconditional surrender of the Empire of Japan to the Allied nations. The IMTFE was modeled after the Nuremberg Trials (which set precedents for most later trials involving international criminal law) and, like the Nuremberg Trials, ended in death sentences and life imprisonment for dozens of its twenty-eight main defendants - a group filled with infamous faces, like that of Hideki Tōjō, general, party leader, and prime minister; Kenji Doihara, who played an instrumental role in the Japanese invasion and destabilization of Manchuria and later other parts of China; Iwane Matsui, commander of expeditionary forces in China, deemed responsible by the tribunal for the Nanking Massacre; and many others. Emperor Hirohito and the entirety of the imperial family (including Prince Yasuhiko Asaka, a commander at Nanking) were not prosecuted by the tribunal.
Eleven men representing eleven different nations served on the IMTFE’s panel of judges, all of them top justices, attorneys, or professors from various Allied nations. The Indian representative Justice Radhabinod Pal famously dissented and, while acknowledging the brutality of certain events (the Nanking Massacre specifically), argued for the exoneration of all indictees, since other trials would cover these acts - as Class B and C crimes. Pal also questioned the legitimacy of the entire proceeding and condemned the United States’ use of atomic weapons against Japan, as well as the fact that this, which he regarded as one of the war’s worst crimes, would go unpunished.
Class A crimes (as opposed to“Class B” and “Class C” crimes - war crimes and crimes against humanity) were defined as crimes against peace, and were therefore reserved for political and military officials who had played parts in the planning and instigation of war; twenty-eight were ultimately charged with Class A crimes and six were hanged for them at Sugamo Prison in December 1948, a month after the trials adjourned. Unlike the Nuremberg Trial executions, where the corpses of the hanged had been photographed and published, no photographers were allowed at the executions.
April 27, 1945: Benito Mussolini is captured.
On this day in 1945, Italy’s former father of fascism, who had adopted the title Il Duce and a dictatorship over his country from the late 1920s until 1943, was captured by Italian communist partisans, along with his mistress Clara Petacci.
In mid-1943, Mussolini was ousted by the Grand Council of Fascism during the eventually successful Allied invasion of Sicily, but he remained in power through the intervention of his German allies, who rescued him and set up under his name a new puppet regime headquartered in Salò, in northern Italy. By this time, Mussolini, his health in a poor state and his characteristic confidence blighted by constant failure, was no longer the bombastic leader who had once marched on Rome, by his own admittance - in an early 1945 interview, he said most uncharacteristically:
I have no fight left in me. I work and I try, yet know that all is but a farce … I await the end of the tragedy and – strangely detached from everything – I do not feel any more an actor. I feel I am the last of spectators.
Allied forces liberated Rome in July 1944, while partisan resistance fought Axis forces from within the country. Amidst this fighting and German retreat, Mussolini, his mistress, and officials of his puppet government made an escape attempt to Switzerland, and then to Spain, but were stopped by communist partisans and then executed the next day in a village in northern Italy. Their bodies were brought to Milan and dumped in the Piazzale Loreto, where civilians hung them upside down on meathooks - and stoned them, shot at them, and spat on them.
Other links: mutilated corpses of Mussolini and Petacci (graphic)
April 25, 1917: Ella Fitzgerald is born.
I guess what everyone wants more than anything else is to be loved. And to know that you loved me for my singing is too much for me. Forgive me if I don’t have all the words. Maybe I can sing it and you’ll understand.
April 23, 1775: J.M.W. Turner is born.
[Turner] became known as ‘the painter of light’, because of his increasing interest in brilliant colours as the main constituent in his landscapes and seascapes.
Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta. She was Lo, plain Lo, in the morning, standing four feet ten in one sock. She was Lola in slacks. She was Dolly at school. She was Dolores on the dotted line. But in my arms she was always Lolita.
April 22, 1899: Vladimir Nabokov is born.
Vladimir Nabokov was born in Saint Petersburg and wrote many of his novels (including his earliest nine) in Russian, but his most famous work, the controversial classic Lolita, was written in English. Nabokov was born to an aristocratic Russian statesman (killed in 1922 by monarchist assassins) and his wife; the Nabokovs enjoyed a cushy and privileged lifestyle in St. Petersburg until 1919, when they were forced into exile in Western Europe. There, Nabokov studied at Cambridge, wrote short stories and poetry under a pseudonym, and composed his first major work in English - The Real Life of Sebastian Knight, shortly before he and his family (including his Jewish wife, Vera Nabokov née Slonim) fled to the United States from France in 1940 with the onset of the German invasion of France.
In the U.S., Nabokov worked at a number of institutions (New York’s Museum of Natural History, Stanford, Wellesley, Harvard, and Cornell) teaching in a number of different fields (entomology, creative writing, comparative literature, Russian, and Russian and European literature). In addition to his fiction writing, Nabokov was also an accomplished literary critic, chess problemist, and entomologist - in fact, he wrote his most famous novel while studying butterflies in the Rocky Mountains. Lolita and Pale Fire (1962) were ranked fourth and fifty-third on the Modern Library’s 100 Best Novels List, respectively.
April 16, 1889: Charlie Chaplin is born.
A tramp, a gentleman, a poet, a dreamer, a lonely fellow, always hopeful of romance and adventure.